The Story of a Canoe
1978 - 2009

Our reliable old 15 ft lightweight Grumman Canoe was badly battered this past winter by a large white pine limb that broke off during a storm. While the canoe is not damaged beyond repair, we realize with regret that we will probably never paddle it again. But it has served us well.

1978

In the fall of 1977, Bob and Diana moved to Deep River after Bob finally ran out of university courses to take. In the spring of 1978 we made two significant purchases: a Datsun 510 station wagon, and a 15 ft lightweight Grumman canoe. The canoe cost $475.00 before taxes; the Datsun considerably more. We still have the canoe; the Datsun is long gone.

15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe on Datsun 510 wagon 1979 April

(photo by Diana: 1979-04-07 - explore

Bob loading the 15 ft Grumman lightweight on the Datsun wagon (1979 April).

christening 15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe on the shore of the Chalk River

Diana christening the new canoe -- we called it Nesswabic -- on the shore of the Chalk River, 1978 April 28. Nesswabic is an old name for the Petawawa River.

By the standards of the time, a 15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe was an excellent canoe for tripping in Algonquin Park. At 55 lb, with paddles lashed in to serve as a yoke, it was easy to portage. Its carrying capacity was adequate, but it was certainly not an easy paddling canoe when loaded up with two people and provisions for a twelve day trip. Nonetheless, it got us where we wanted to go and it didn't need to be treated gently. On occasion we have used it to go over (or through) beaver dams, and sometimes as an icebreaker.

In addition to being a flatwater tripping boat, it also served as a downriver boat for trips on the Petawawa, Mattawa, Dumoine, Noire and Madawaska Rivers. Some of these were day trips, and some multiday trips. We used to paddle the rapids of the lower Petawawa River after work on a regular basis (see White Water Play), but subsequently moved on to solo boats: Diana, a kayak, and Bob, a covered C1.

While the Grumman didn't do anything really well, it performed adequately in everything we asked of a canoe. Over the next decade or so, we explored much of Algonquin Park and surrounding territory in this canoe.

15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe at Canoe Lake

Diana and the Grumman at Canoe Lake (1981 May 08).

15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe at Burntroot Lake

The Grumman acting as a windbreak on Burntroot Lake.

15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe in the Barron Canyon

In the Barron Canyon

15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe on the Mattawa River

(explore

On the Mattawa River

15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe at the bottom of Rollway Rapids on the Petawawa River

(explore

At the bottom of Rollway Rapids on the Petawawa River

15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe Lake Lamuir

On Lake Lamuir (we think)

15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe at The Natch 0n the Petawawa River

At The Natch

Evening paddle of the 15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe on Little Osler Lake

Evening paddle on Little Osler Lake. The Grumman could be paddled solo if you could comfortably sit on your heels. It certainly didn't have a kneeling thwart and it did have a thwart just aft of the bow seat, which effectively precluded paddling the canoe backwards from the bow seat.

portaging 15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe

Using lashed paddles as a yoke. At 55 lbs, the Grumman was an easily portaged canoe.

Our Grumman's first major adventure occurred about three months after we bought it, when we did a whitewater trip down the Dumoine River (no photographs, unfortunately). We were shuttled into Lake Laforge by Bradley Air Services. On the second day of the trip we punctured the hull going through a rock-stuffed wave. The stern dropped onto the rock, striking just forward of the rear flotation compartment. The rigid bulkhead sliced through the hull, resulting in a five-inch gash. We weren't immediately aware of the damage, and were somewhat confused by the amount of "splash water" in the canoe at the bottom of the rapids. After pausing to patch the hole with duct tape, we completed the trip without further incident. In fact, we didn't permanently repair the damage until the following spring.

Grumman canoes, at that time at least, came with a lifetime warranty against hull puncture "while occupied, upright, on the water". Grumman honoured the warranty by providing a repair kit -- aluminum patches, rivets, rubber gasket, epoxy, and new bulkhead -- and the offer of $60 if we didn't wish to undertake the repair ourselves. The repair consisted of an aluminum patch backed by a rubber gasket riveted to the inside if the hull, and epoxy filling the crack on the outside. This provided a structurally sound and waterproof seal for several years. In later years, we found it necessary to augment the epoxy with a fresh duct tape patch each spring.

repairing 15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe

(explore

At the time, we were living in an upstairs apartment in a 4-plex. The other side of the building was about to be renovated, and the first floor apartment below us was vacant, so we were the only tenants in the building. Consequently, we were able to bring the canoe inside and stand it vertically in the stairwell to facilitate curing of the epoxy patch (it was too cold outside).

In 1987, on what we refer to as "the walking tour" -- Achray to Lavieille and return via Barron Lake, Loonskin, White Partridge, Dickson Lakes etc. -- we punctured the hull again, this time, just aft of the forward bulkhead. This breach was due to the accumulation of many small insults rather than any identifiable incident. We were surprised to discover the damage at the end of a portage, but immediately understood what it was. We never did get around to properly repairing this crack, and just went with a regular application of fresh duct tape as required.

Our canoe tripping fell off sharply in the early '90's for a variety of reasons and has never really recovered. Bob acquired a solo canoe, a Swift Osprey, in 2000 and has perhaps logged as many miles (though not tripping miles) in the Osprey as in the Grumman. The Grumman was officially replaced as our tandem tripping canoe with the purchase of a Swift Kipawa in 2006. The Grumman has spent its retirement mostly resting in our back yard, getting taken out once in a while, and receiving the odd visitor.

15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe and Swift Kipawa

(photo by Bob: 2008-09-26 - explore

The Grumman, resting under the white pine in our back yard last fall, with the Kipawa perhaps getting a little overly friendly.

The Grumman succumbed to injuries this past winter when several large white pine boughs fell on it.

battered repairing 15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe

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The Grumman this spring. Several storms during the winter tore limbs off the local white pines. One very large limb scored a direct hit and caused significant damage. In spite of two hull breaches (which probably would not have occurred for a regular weight Grumman), this canoe had never previously suffered any deformational damage. We never had to straighten the keel or jump out dents on the shoreline. There were lots of scratches and small dents, but nothing major.

This canoe is quite repairable; it bent, and popped some rivets, but it didn't break. However, it needs significant work and will never be good as new again. The result would be a canoe with no particular advantage over the Kipawa, except perhaps for bulldozing beaver dams. Sad as it is, the reality is that we will most likely never paddle this canoe again. R.I.P.

In Happier Times

15 ft Grumman canoe on the snow by the Chalk River in April 1979

(photo by Bob: 1979-04-07 - explore

On the shore of the Chalk River, April 1979. It was easier to slide the canoe over the snow than to carry it.

relaxing by the Corry Lake Bridge in April 1979

(photo by Diana: 1979-04-07 - explore

I just wanted to include this photo because it shows the old Corry Lake Bridge.

2010 June 03

The original version of this page ended with the statement:

If you would like to repair this canoe and provide it with a with a new home, get in touch. It is available in exchange solely for a promise to provide us with a photograph of you paddling it. We will use that photograph in an update to this page.

Chris from North Bay has taken us up on this offer. We look forward to a photo of Nesswabic being paddled again.

inspecting hull damage to 15 ft  Grumman caused by falling tree limb

(photo by Diana: 2010-06-03 - explore

Bob points some of the damage to Chris.

damaged Grumman canoe leaving for a new lease on life

(photo by Diana: 2010-06-03 - explore

Nesswabic leaving to begin its new life.

Notes

When we purchased our canoe, the 15 ft Grumman was available in three variations, differing in hull thickness, number of ribs, and keel type. The standard regular weight Grumman had the thicker hull material, three ribs, and a fin keel, and weighed in at about 65 lbs. The lightweight Grumman had the thinner hull material, five ribs, a fin keel, and weighed in at 55 lbs. The whitewater Grumman had the thicker hull material, five ribs and a shoe keel, and weighed in at about 75 lbs.

The preponderance of white water photos is because most of our flat water tripping was undertaken alone with no one available to take photos of us. We put on many more flat water miles than white water miles.